If you are looking for ideas for your unfinished basement, you’ve likely talked to one or two construction companies.
If not, you may think you have to spend an arm and a leg to spruce up the space.
Even adding drywall can be a huge expense if you aren’t an experienced contractor. And it would be a huge undertaking to DIY.
However, we have another solution. Our unfinished basement ideas help you brighten and better utilize your space.
The best part? They’re easy and affordable to do, even if you’ve never picked up a hammer before.
Read on to see our favorite ideas from around the web.
1. Add a Fresh Coat of Paint
It’s amazing what a coat of paint can do. The first thing you’ll want to do in this dusty space is thoroughly vacuum up any little particles. Then, scrub down the walls with soap and water.
Once fully dry, paint over with waterproofing masonry paint. This special paint can go right over the sheet rock or concrete. Use plain white to really brighten up the space.
Don’t stop at the basement walls. Once the walls are done, paint the floors. The prep work is the hardest part. Use a scrubbing broom to wash the floor, then use a shop vacuum to remove dust and dirt.
Repeat the process until your floors feel clean enough to allow you to walk barefoot. Once it’s clean, paint with exterior concrete and garage floor paint. You can find this at your local Home Depot.
Pour it right onto the floor and paint with a roller until completely covered. Last, paint any exposed beams. You can keep them all white or paint them a contrasting gray or black.
2. Cover Unsightly Walls with Curtains
If your basement has any ugly exposed insulation, use curtain rods to hang fabric on the walls. If you’re handy with a sewing machine, make your own. Otherwise, shop for cheap curtains from IKEA or Amazon.
Use adjustable curtain rods and hang as many as you need to cover the exposed wall. If you can’t drill into concrete or insulation, try hanging your curtains from wood ceiling beams.
You can also use curtains as room dividers to create several basement rooms.
3. Use Foam Floor Mats
Most basements have concrete floors. This means they are uncomfortable to sit or walk on and incredibly cold. Foam floor mats are a cheap and easy way to soften up your basement space. Choose black or brightly colored mats.
To install them, simply lock them together on the floor. You’re now ready to create a home gym or children’s playroom. Foam flooring is also a great base for your pool table if you are using your basement as a game room.
If you prefer to use the space for a home office or living space, choose a faux wood soft tile.
There are lots of realistic-looking basement flooring options on the market that are cheap and easy to install. They are also a smarter fix than carpeting or area rugs, which will be ruined if your basement ever floods.
4. Create a Laundry Room
Many homeowners have basement laundry rooms. Don’t make this weekly chore more painful than it has to be with a dreary basement space. We love how this laundry room uses a fun paint color to brighten drab concrete walls.
The homeowners also hung shelving and covered it with a patterned curtain. Now, it can double as an easy folding area and attractive storage space for detergent, bleach, etc.
Or, use the shelf to display a fun laundry room sign. You can even add antique washboards for a vintage effect.
5. Create Under-Stair Storage
For small basements, maximize space by creating a storage unit under the basement stair nook. You can DIY this cheaply with scrap board.
Create different-sized cubbies to hold decorations, tools, folding chairs, and toys. For smaller items, use plastic bins and baskets to corral everything neatly.
6. Create an Industrial Bar
Chalkboard paint is a great way to create a basement bar without a full remodel. This design embraced the industrial look with a wooden table, exposed pendant lights, and vintage chairs.
Add a wine shelf, and you’re on your way to a full wine cellar. Chalkboard paint is a great addition to any man cave or children’s playroom, as well.
7. Paint Your Ceiling
Even if your ceiling has exposed joists, you can still paint over it. Clean white paint creates a trendy look, or you can choose black for a darker man-cave feel. This will take a lot of work, but the airy result is worth it.
The best way to do this is to rent a paint sprayer. The result is as attractive as a drop ceiling but far less expensive.
Another smart basement ceiling idea is to craft a canopy. Cover with a large piece of fabric and attach to ceiling beams for a beautiful, billowy look.
8. Hang String Lights
Cafe lights can add charming decor to an unfinished ceiling. It also brightens up your space if you don’t have a lot of natural light through basement windows.
Plus, it’s a lot cheaper than installing track lighting. Hang them tightly, as done here, for a uniform look. Or string several loosely for a shabby-chic vibe.
9. Create a Workshop
Since you aren’t worried about getting your basement dirty, it’s a great place to create your workshop. Use pegboards and shelving to create storage for tools and gear.
Include a work table and bench, and throw down some foam flooring for underfoot comfort.
10. Design a Craft Room
Basement remodeling is a huge undertaking, but you don’t need to do a whole lot to create a fun craft room. Hang cabinetry for built-in storage. You can probably find used options at home sales or salvage stores.
If you’re keeping the walls bare, hang some pictures and home décor for a more attractive aesthetic. Include your work table and a few old filing cabinets to store supplies.
A pretty pendant light also makes for a more attractive room. And just like that, you have a working art studio.
11. Grown-Up Playroom
Do you love to host your friends and family for sports matches, movie showings, or game nights?
If so, you can create a space in your home dedicated explicitly to those occasions in your basement.
A fully stocked basement bar is a must, as is a big television and comfy couch.
12. Give Your Kids Their Own Space
If you have children, you already know that their toys end up everywhere, no matter what you do. What’s more, that mess can be both overwhelming and aggravating.
Instead of fighting, embrace it by giving them a wide-open space to spread out, make noise, and be messy.
Since the basement is out of sight, it’s ideal for housing all of their stuff. In addition, it allows them to create a more peaceful space in their bedroom for reading, doing homework, and other quiet activities.
13. Create a Laundry Station
If you’ve ever dreamed of a large laundry room with space for folding, hang-drying, sorting, spare cleaning products, and more, then this idea is for you.
Along with your washer and dryer, you can install cabinets and countertops with space for everything.
A big bonus to this basement renovation is the space you’ll save in your current laundry room. Turn it into a pantry, storage closet, or even a tiny home office.
14. Turn It Into an Apartment
If you have college-aged (or older) children living at home, you all might benefit from giving them a little more independence while under your roof.
Or perhaps your parents would be safer in your home, or you have a lot of family members who live very far away and travel a great distance to see you. Whatever the reason, turning your basement into an independent living space is one of the best ways you can use that space.
It’s simpler than you might think to install a kitchenette. More than likely, there’s already plumbing down there for a bathroom as well. It won’t be cheap to put these in, but it will be worthwhile.
Even if none of the scenarios above apply to you, why not monetize part of your home by renting the basement apartment on Airbnb or a similar platform? It will pay for itself in no time.
15. Skip the Drive to the Gym
Give your home and your body an upgrade by putting in a home gym. You can have everything you need to stay in shape year-round with just a few pieces of equipment.
Additionally, you can create a practice space if you have an athletic passion, such as yoga or dance. No more excuses for not getting in your daily workout!
16. Your Very Own Game Room
It seems like there’s a place in your home for everything, except your “big kid” toys.
Items like dartboards, pool tables, and arcade games get relegated to the garage or storage, or worse, you have to sell them.
Hang onto those items that let you let loose by putting in a game room in the basement. This idea works well with #1, the grown-up playroom.
17. Music Room or Recording Studio
You or someone in your family might love to play instruments, but that doesn’t mean that everyone else likes to listen to them.
That makes the basement the ideal place to practice, and soundproofing a basement is more straightforward than any other space in your home.
What’s more, if you have experience with sound mixing or recording, you could turn a hobby into a lucrative business by offering these services from your home.
18. Move the Master Suite
Everyone needs their own space to unwind and relax. Ideally, that’s your bedroom.
But if the master “suite” in your home is small or otherwise disappointing, it might be easier to build a new one rather than try to renovate a too-small space.
Your basement likely has enough room to build the bedroom and bathroom of your dreams. Once again, this can add significant value to your home in addition to vastly improving your quality of life.
19. Home Movie Theater
If you’re a movie buff with a vast collection of films, build yourself the perfect space to watch them.
Not only can you fit a giant television in the basement, but you can also install a state-of-the-art sound system that mimics an authentic theater experience.
What’s more, watching movies—especially action movies—in the basement won’t disturb any kids, spouses, or housemates upstairs.
20. Wine Cellar and Tasting Room
Any wine connoisseur will tell you that it matters where you store your wine. Not only do you need temperature control, but also humidity and other conditions to keep your collection tasting perfect.
A basement is an excellent place for a wine cellar because it’s already cooler than the rest of the house, and it likely doesn’t get a lot of sunlight. While you’re at it, put it in a comfortable place to host a tasting.
21. A Carpenter’s or Hobbyist’s Dream
If you like to build things or have a hobby that requires space—such as painting, arts and crafts, carpentry, or creating anything—then transform your basement into a studio.
You won’t crowd the rest of your home with your materials.
In addition, getting some space away from your project can also give your creativity a much-needed break. This is especially helpful if you plan to monetize your hobby in any way.
22. Work From Home in Peace
During the COVID-19 pandemic, many of us learned how difficult it is to work from home.
Whether it’s kids, laundry, pets, kitchen messes, or some other distraction, getting in eight hours of actual work time can become almost impossible.
You can solve that problem by building your own home office in the basement. Decorate it with any awards and diplomas you’ve received, and add a bookcase of material related to your line of work.
You’ll be amazingly productive and never have to pack a lunch again.
23. A Place for All Your Books
Speaking of books, if you’re an avid reader, you doubtless have boxes or stacks of books around your home. You can use your basement to create a library to display them all.
Floor-to-ceiling shelves are stunning, and since most basements are dark, you don’t need to worry about blocking out the light.
While you’re at it, put in a cozy reading corner. Move a very comfortable chair down there, along with a bright lamp, warm blankets, and other inviting elements. It might just become your favorite napping spot, too.
24. Create a Home Gallery
Whether you travel frequently, collect posters, or love to take pictures, if you’ve run out of wall space in the rest of your home, you can hang your treasures in the basement.
This is a great idea to pair with any other ideas on this list, especially the game room, hobby space, library, or home office. That way, you can look at your favorite memories or memorabilia anytime you want.
25. Stylish Storage
Your basement is likely home to all kinds of things that don’t have another space, including souvenirs, holiday decorations, out-of-season clothes, food, and more.
Many people dread entering their storage space because it looks chaotic and messy.
It doesn’t have to be that way, though. Even if you can’t convert your basement for another purpose, you can invest in stylish storage to make it more pleasant. Wide, deep shelves are a must, as are storage bins with labels.
You can start stockpiling extra food and cleaning supplies since the basement is so good for storage because of the cool temperatures.
Once again, installing ample storage space can be a big selling point for potential buyers if you plan to sell your home in the near future.
Things to Consider
As you peruse this list, some things may have stuck out more to you, depending on your family’s needs.
There’s a lot to consider when renovating; after all, your basement is probably not big enough for all of these ideas!
Here are a few things to consider and items to keep in mind as you weigh your options and decide if and how to renovate your basement:
- Your budget: Perhaps the most significant factor in what you can do lies in how much you can spend. Some of these, such as moving the master suite or turning it into an apartment, will cost significantly more than something like creating a gallery wall. Keep in mind, though, that the more expensive the renovation, the more value it may add to your home in the end.
- The size of your basement: On the one hand, you may not have space for all of these projects, but on the other hand, you might have an enormous basement, and some of the smaller projects won’t make much of a difference. In addition, you may need to leave some room for storage.
- What your family needs now: You might be in desperate need of a home office or playroom for your kids. If you think one of these ideas might transform your life at the same time as changing your basement, then that’s the one to go with.
- What your family needs in the future: On the other hand, you may not need a playroom or a home office in the future. It’s okay to build it now, but try to design it so that the space can be repurposed with minimal cost and work in the future.
- Do you plan to sell? If so, then specific ideas here will make your home more appealing to potential buyers. However you decide to use the space, you might want to go with neutral colors and décor so that future homeowners can see themselves using it for some other purpose.
- Temperature: Basements can be very cold, making your cellar ideal in the summer but less than appealing in the winter. If your basement isn’t well-heated, consider how you might warm up the space, especially if you plan to use it as an apartment or office where people will spend a lot of their time.
- Lighting: Basements can also be dark since they’re located underground and don’t have a lot of natural light. You may want to install very luminous overhead lighting throughout to brighten your basement and make up for the lack of windows.
Frequently Asked Questions
What can I do with an unfinished basement?
You can do anything with an unfinished basement! You can declutter, clean, light, seal, paint, or shelve it. Without refinishing, there are literally endless ways to make it your own. All it takes is a little bit of imagination and you'll have a custom space in no time!
What is the cheapest way to finish an unfinished basement?
The cheapest way to finish an unfinished basement is to make improvement that don't require you to pull any permits.
These include installing new doors and trim, painting walls and trim, installing flooring, making use of room dividers, and adding lamps and other small and inexpensive accents.
How can I cover my basement walls cheaply?
Using wooden furring strips and 2x4 studs attached to dry walls, you can cover your basement walls cheaply.
Be warned, however, that any major structural improvement requires you to pull permits, meaning you'll need to do it up to code, and have a licensed contractor inspect the project.
Is it bad to stay in unfinished basement?
While it may seem like a good idea to sleep in an unfinished basement, we don't recommend it. Doing so exposes you to lack of air and natural light and potential harmful things like radon, mold, dust, and radon.
What can I use for basement walls instead of drywall?
Instead of drywall, you can use wood planks, plastic panels, plywood, plaster, pegboard, or vinyl sheets for your basement wall. Though the most convenient thing to use is a wooden room divider.
How do I make my unfinished basement smell better?
If your unfinished basement smells, you can use cat litter, white vinegar, or baking soda to absorb the musty smell. It's also best to remove the source of the bad smell by using a dehumidifier in your basement.
What’s Your Favorite Basement Idea?
So there you have it—our favorite unfinished basement ideas.
If one of these ideas stood out to you, that might be the one to choose for your basement renovation. If not, read through the list again and consider making your own pros and cons chart to help you decide.
Remember that your basement renovation is not only an investment in your home but also in your family’s quality of life. It should be something that you will enjoy and that will make everyone happier and healthier.